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Feature: Are host Cameroon genuine contesters for CHAN 2021?

• The Central African Nation targets a historic and maiden CHAN trophy when they stage the continental football tournament from January 16-February 7th.   

By Beng Emmanuel 

“I am very dissatisfied. I want to think about it. I don’t understand” – Coach Martin Ndtoungou Mpile’s response to Cameroon’s performance in the Pre-CHAN four nations mini-tournament, sums up the team’s performance…. it was absolutely embarrassing!

Intermediate Lion’s Coach Martin Ndtoungou Mpile

The 2021 African Nations Football Championship rumbles off in a week’s time and host Cameroon are yet to show huge endeavours in their quest to lift their maiden CHAN trophy. 

The team’s frailties are too glaring to be ignored and most recently the Pre-CHAN four nations mini-tournament in Yaounde has left fans wanting and worried if the Intermediate Lions will break the jinx for a long awaited breakthrough. 

Cameroon at the CHAN

The Intermediate Lions are making their fourth appearance at the African Nations Football Championship with their best performance in 2011 and 2016 when they reached the quarterfinals. During their last appearance in Morocco in 2018, they failed to reach the knock-out stage for the first time. Two years later the team hopes to end their title drought… Can they?

But is there anything to proof to start off a recovery after a losing run in three previous stints. Aside from just winning the CHAN, the squad of gifted youngsters and football pearls have a challenge to emerge victorious in a major competition they hosted. There is also the Covid-19 and for a greater part of it the absence of a local championship. 

Only Morocco ever hosted the CHAN and won it on home soil. And the mere thought Cameroon could be close to achieving such a feat is undeniably honourable. 

With all these huddles therefore, players and staff of the Intermediate Lions are conscious that honour is not at the half way stage. And until a trophy is won, questions about their suitability will continue to be asked. 

How CHAN postponement affected Cameroon? 

In March 2020, the Confederation of African Football decided to reschedule the 2020 African Nations Football Championship to January 2021 due to the global health crises – COVID-19. 

The tournament was initially slated to run from April 4-21. While others saw the postponement as an opportunity to complete projects related to the competition, it’s nearly certain many didn’t see the wave of incoming trouble that has now affected the team. 

The previous months were one of the most remarkable. There were relatively few questions and worries about the team’s readiness and it became glaring they surely won’t struggle to create impact when they stage the CHAN. 

At least this was the case before the tournament was postponed and later after an unprecedented defeat to Cameroon League one outfit Panthere of Bagante in a friendly game. The defeat shocked the country and marked a turning point within the squad led by the then coach Yves Clement Arroga. 

Arroga’s Exit, Ndtoungou Mpile’s Era. 

Few days after their defeat Cameroon played two goalless draws against South Sudan. 

Disappointed by the results, the Minister of Sport and Physical Education Prof Narcisse Moulle Kombi in a communiqué sacked Yves Clement Arroga and named Martin Ndtoungou Mpile as the new head coach of Cameroon’s Intermediate Lions with two high profile managers as his deputies. 

Ndtoungou Mpile led Cameroon to the quarterfinals of the CHAN in 2016. His first assistant Emmanuel Ndoumbe Bosso inspired Cameroon a quarter-final finish in 2011 while the third deputy coach David Pagou just won a maiden domestic title with PWD of Bamenda and gained a spot in the CAF Champions League.  A cast of talented tacticians assigned to led the nation to glory. 

The started off well. At one point they recorded mixed fortunes. The team is full of surprises. And their recent results are evidence of the narrative. 

Cameroon at Four Nation tourney

In December 2020, the Cameroon Football Federation FECAFOOT said Yaounde will host a four nations mini-tournament from January 1-7 2021. 

The objective of the seven-day competition was to rate the team’s readiness as they continued to brace up for the CHAN. 

All three foreign nations that took part in the event are qualified for the CHAN; Niger, Zambia and Uganda. And like their host Cameroon, they were looking to impress and gain confidence going into the continental football showpiece. 

It turns out that for Cameroon things didn’t go as expected. They failed to secure a win in  three outings and finished bottom of the table after they drew with Uganda (1-1) on New Year day and recorded two consecutive defeats against Niger (1-2) and Zambia (0-2). 

The Intermediate Lions endured a mixed campaign at the mini-tournament. Against Uganda, they showed glimpses of cohesion although they were held a draw. 

In their second game, the team failed to hit gear and were cut apart and completely broken by Niger but their final defeat to Zambia proved the team had no traits of boldness or threat nor confidence and cohesion. In fact the players and staff looked in complete sheds of disarray as they walked off the pitch in the most inglorious manner.  

But there is a consolation to their inefficiency. The team played without about seven (7) of their key players all from Coton Sport of Garoua who were on continental assignment. These players who undoubtedly make up the spin of the Intermediate Lions radiate confidence and a valuable addition to the squad.

The remaining days to the 2021 CHAN will be extremely vital for Cameroon not only in making their mark but also gaining confidence which comes with securing silver wear.  

Bigger things no doubt await the team. They will have to proof their pedigree and make a real twist to reach the final. 

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